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Interdisciplinary Merits of Primary Source Labs in Humanities​

Updated: Oct 27, 2022

ASNLH 20th anniversary planning committee, 1936: Courtesy Chicago Public Library

Tuesday, October 25, 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.​

Interdisciplinary Merits of Primary Source Labs in Humanities​


Facilitator: Professor Sylvea Hollis, African and African ​ American History |

Co-host: Angela Lanier​

This presentation will provide a general overview of the interdisciplinary merits of primary source labs in humanities classrooms. It will provide attendees with the following: examples of OERS (open educational resources), digital classroom tools to help students ask critical humanities-based questions, examples of hard and soft skills labs provide students, feedback from students about strengths and weakness of framework, and suggestions for ways to adapt labs in DLs, STRs, and in-person classes.​


The Civil War and Reconstruction

"Charlotte Forten was born into a wealthy Black family in Philadelphia. After receiving an education in Salem, Massachusetts, Forten became the first Black American hired to teach white students. She lent her educational expertise to the war effort by relocating to South Carolina in 1862 with the goal of educating freed people. This excerpt from her diary explains her experiences during this time." --American Yawp

Black Americans hoped that the end of the Civil War would create an entirely new world, while white southerners tried to restore the antebellum order as much as they could. Most former enslavers sought to maintain control over their laborers through sharecropping contracts. P.H. Anderson of Tennessee was one such former enslaver. After the war, he contacted his former enslaved laborer Jourdon Anderson, offering him a job opportunity. The following is Jourdon Anderson’s reply. -American Yawp

"Reconstruction began before the War ended. After his famous March to the Sea in January of 1865, General William T. Sherman and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton met with twenty of Savannah’s African American religious leaders to discuss the future of the freedmen of the state of Georgia. In the excerpt below, Garrison Frazier, the chosen spokesman for the group, explains the importance of land for freedom. The result of this meeting was Sherman’s famous Field Order 15, which set aside confiscated plantation lands along the coast from Charleston, S.C. to Jacksonville, FL. for Black land ownership. The policy would later be overruled and freedpeople would lose their right to the land." --American Yawp

"William Henry Singleton was born to his enslaved mother, Lettice, and her master’s brother, William Singleton. At the age of four he was sold away from his mother, but ran back to her several times throughout his life. When the war broke out, he escaped to Union lines and volunteered for service. After being dismissed, he rallied one thousand Black soldiers and received a promotion as a sergeant." --American Yawp

Age of American Empire and Spanish American War

"Thousands of African-American troops served in in the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars. Confronted with racial violence and discrimination at home, they did so with a mix of hope, skepticism, satisfaction, and disappointment. Here, the Indianapolis Freeman reports on recruiting efforts in Hartfod, Connecticut." --American Yawp

"A bronze three piece Spanish American War Veterans medal with ribbon issued to members of the United Spanish War Veterans. At the top of the medal is bronze American eagle in mid-flight within a laurel wreath in front of a shield with vertical stripes and five-pointed stars. Attached to this piece is a ribbon in the shape of an American flag hanging vertically with thirteen stripes and thirteen stars. Attached to the bottom of the ribbon is a bronze piece consisting of a cavalry saber, an infantry rifle, and a naval anchor, all crossed. Attached to this piece is the final component of the medal which is a bronze Spanish American War cross, with the four arms (clockwise from right to left), reading: "PORTO RICO/ CUBA/ PHILIPPINES/ USA". This cross also contains the dates "1898-1902" with the words "SPANISH WAR VETERANS" surround a small circular military scene. On the reverse side of the cross the four arms read (clockwise from right to left): "NORTH/ SOUTH/ EAST/ WEST." At the center circle of the cross is a field of five-pointed stars and vertical stripes with the word "UNITED" atop the field of stars and stripes." --NMAAHC

A United States 48-star flag used at veteran's reunions of the \9th Ohio Volunteer Infantry battalion, who served in the Spanish-American War under then Major Charles Young. The flag is made of white cotton printed in blue and red ink on the recto and verso. Printed in black ink on the recto only within the top four (4) white stripes is the text: "VETERANS REUNION / 9th BATT. O.V.I. / MAJ. CHAS. YOUNG / COMMANDING". --NMAAHC

"This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Spanish-American War which was declared on April 26, 1898. This action followed Spain's oppressive treatment of Cuba's struggle for independence since 1895. The declaration of war by the United States against the Kingdom of Spain was the direct result of the 'blowing up' of the battleship Main in Havana Harbor in March. President McKinley called for 200,000 volunteers and 1,000,000 stepped forward to enlist. At that time, the US Army numbered 25,000. " --NOBLE Digital Heritage

Age of New Negro, World War I

"In the aftermath of World War I, W.E.B. DuBois urged returning soldiers to continue fighting for democracy at home." -American Yawp

"After fighting World War I, ostensibly to defend democracy and the right of self-determination, thousands of African-American soldiers returned home to face intensified discrimination, segregation, and racial violence. Drawing on this frustration, Marcus Garvey attracted thousands of disillusioned black working-class and lower middle-class followers to his Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). The UNIA, committed to notions of racial purity and separatism, insisted that salvation for African Americans meant building an autonomous, black-led nation in Africa.”"-- History Matters

Alain Locke, a leading figure of the Harlem Renaissance, was a distinguished academic—the first African American Rhodes Scholar, he obtained a Ph.D. in philosophy from Harvard—who taught at Howard University for 35 years. In 1925, he published an essay, “Enter the New Negro,” that described an African American population busy seeing “a new vision of opportunity.” --American Yawp

A manuscript titled “The Tulsa Race Riot and Three of Its Victims” by B.C. Franklin. The unpublished manuscript consists of ten pages written in black type on yellowed paper. It was written on August 22, 1931, ten years after the Tulsa Race Massacre and recounts the events of the massacre as witnessed by the author, including an account of Franklin witnessing three men being killed by the mob. The manuscript is signed by B.C. Franklin on the last page. --NMAAHC

Great Migration

"Between 1916 and 1921 a half million African Americans left the South and journeyed to cities in the North and West in what was then the largest internal movement of a people in such a concentrated period of time in the history of the nation. Migrants‘ letters to northern newspapers were among the best and most voluminous sources for understanding the migration process and interpreting the migrants’ motivations for leaving. Seven letters to the Chicago Defender— a black newspaper published in Chicago that strongly urged southern blacks to migrate North—attest to migrants' strong desire to “better their condition,” often risking their lives and possessions to make the trip north."-- History Matters

Research notes and draft chapters in the Illinois Writers Project: “Negro in Illinois” Papers are arranged according to the sequence of chapters in the projected book on African American history and culture in Illinois. Where the materials for a projected chapter occupy more than one box, they are continued in the box immediately following. --Chicago Public Library

"For use in a debate which he is coaching at the Downington Industrial and Agricultural School, seeking Du Bois's views on the "dangers" of the Great Migration." -Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries

"Per his query on the Great Migration (mums312-b174-i416), referring him to the files of the "Crisis," 1910-1925, as those contain nearly all his opinions on the Negro Problem." --Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries

Additional Resources:

Primary Source Analysis Worksheets:

Additional Notes on Primary Source Labs

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